7th August - 18th October, 2023

Wilfrid Wood’s Holidaymakers/Pelham Puppets

The Museum of Contemporary Art: Holiday Makers of Sidmouth

Artist-Sculptor Wilfrid Wood's satirical plasticine-head portraits featured in the first exhibition in The Museum of Contemporary Art.

Wood visited us during Folk Week to complete the installation on Monday 7 August, all before leading a series of workshops. His vibrant plasticine portraits were exhibited in the telephone boxes in Market Square until October 2023. This 3D exhibition coincided with a new artwork created for Sidmouth Wallspace.

Both the exhibition and Wallspace artworks are called Holiday Makers of Sidmouth - a topical, colourful and whimsical love letter to Sidmouth and to all the holiday makers who flock to our town throughout the summer.

From Wonky Donkeys to Pelham Puppets

The Museum of Antiquities opened in time for Folk Week to ensure maximum viewers as the market square was busy with buskers and street performers. Sidmouth Toy and Model Museum presented some of their collection of Pelham Puppets in our first exhibition.

These handmade and hand painted puppets are as iconic as the telephone boxes.

Collectible and prized toys, they were first made by Bob Pelham in 1947 in Marlborough under the name of Wonky Toys Ltd. Renamed as Pelham Puppets in 1948 to move away from the name that came from Bob's Second World War military nickname, when he was known as "The Wonky Donkey Officer" as he made small toy donkeys.

With a huge number of different puppets created, many were characters from children's stories such as Hansel and Gretel and TV programmes through the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s from Pinky and Perky to the Magic Roundabout to the Muppets and Snoopy , these popular wooden marionettes are very evocative of childhood memories.

Sidmouth School of Art were in contact with David Leech, official biographer of Bob Pelham who was delighted to hear about the exhibition. David, provided images to help create the backdrop for the puppets said, "Although Pelham Puppets are no longer produced, Bob Pelham’s legacy lives on through the lives and work of many professional puppeteers today.”

For more information about the puppets and their history, visit:

Photo credit: Sarah Hall